A late bloomer
The recent phenomenon of Eastern European and Asian boxers taking on and defeating former or reigning world champions, before having 10 professional fights themselves, makes fans question the slow and steady method of most prospects. One of those steady types is an American of Puerto Rican heritage, Frank “Notorious” Galarza, an unbeaten, 16-0-2 (10), junior middleweight who headlines tonight’s “ShoBox” event (10 p.m. ET/PT, delayed on the West Coast) in his native Brooklyn, NY. Still a relative unknown outside of hardcore East Coast boxing fans, Galarza thinks his fight with Belgium’s Sheldon Moore, 19-2-1 (9), marks the beginning of his assault on a world title, a springboard to other fights on Showtime or, at the very least, a path into the top 10 rankings of the four major sanctioning bodies. His rise has been comparatively slow but Galarza believes the learning lessons found on the longer path will help him hold onto the crown as king of the hill once he has reached the top.
Longtime boxing insider Steve Farhood, who will be commentating on the ShoBox card, is a realist who never simply promotes whatever his network televises. And he likes what Galarza has accomplished to date, “Galarza was a fortuitous find by ShoBox. Since he upset [John] Thompson [in Jan. 2014], he’s won four more times and looked better each time,” quickly and justifiably adding, “The level of his opposition doesn’t allow him to be called a contender yet but he’s made major strides. I would think, at age 29, he would try to make this a breakthrough year for him.” Even tonight’s opponent, Moore, is not a household name but ShoBox has a history of erecting deceiving roadblocks for prospects featured on their airwaves. Just ask Galarza; he was one of those roadblocks just last year.
It was on ShoBox in which Galarza earned a knockout reputation for himself, scoring a fantastic second round stoppage of fellow undefeated and favorited Thompson. At 29, Galarza (also known as “The Brooklyn Rocky”) does need to display a sense of urgency and he is an exception at ShoBox, which prefers to highlight much younger talent. Galarza wants to run stop signs now, “The time for me is definitely now. My first Shobox fight set the platform for me. I didn’t just win a fight that absolutely nobody thought I could; I won it in grand style. I made a statement. I’ve continued to grow and feel I’ve gotten better since that fight. But I’m here to show people what I’m all about.” However, he can’t be reckless. A physically strong athlete, Galarza’s aggressive tendencies have to be reined in since he had a late start in boxing and only competed in 11 amateur fights. That leaves him vulnerable to walking into the traps of a seasoned competitor or getting led around the ring instead of leading with his punches.
Entertainment is what Galarza strives to provide and he thinks Sheldon Moore will help him deliver that, “Moore looks physically big and strong, tough and hungry and comes to fight. He’s aggressive and that’s the best part about it – it should make for a great fight. I can be aggressive too. I know he’s coming to fight and everybody knows I’m not moving backwards, so I expect fireworks.”Repaying those who have supported him by delivering on potential is what gives Galarza that extra push, “I’ve never been more motivated for a match. It’s in Brooklyn, my hometown, and I want to entertain the people. This is my show, my homecoming and I will defend my home turf. I come to fight every time, especially on Showtime, on ShoBox, where they give you opponents of good caliber, who are expected to put on a show and expected to make a good fight.” He delivers those words with a charisma that has gained Galarza a vocal and loyal following, which will be on full display tonight.
Even though Galarza came to the sport late, boxing has been a part of Galarza’s life since the beginning. His father was a promising prospect but was claimed by the streets where he was shot and killed under shadowy circumstances. Sadly, his mother followed Frank Sr. to an early grave two short years later. She was a victim of lost hope and drugs, though her son could not fully process everything since he was only nine years old at the time. Raised by his aunt and uncle, little Frank began to box at age 17 but did not commit to anything besides hanging with “the wrong crowd.” It led to jail time that hardened Galarza without dooming him. In time, boxing and religion combined, as Garza says, “to save me”. In 2009, Galarza completed a personal and professional transformation, winning the New York City Golden Gloves in 2010 and incorporated boxing in fitness routines that he teaches his Manhattan clientele as a personal fitness trainer.
Galarza sees his headline act as the beginning of a march toward the world title, “I have a job to do on April 10 but after that, the big names of the division are going to be forced to deal with me. I’m 29 and laying it all on the line.” A slightly younger Moore, at 28 years old, sees the same scenario playing out for him if he can score an upset on a nationally televised card, “This is a huge opportunity for me and my career. Hands down, this is the biggest fight of my life. It is a must-win fight for me. I have seen a few of Galarza’s fights and I am fully confident that I have what it takes to upset him in his backyard.” Moore reasoned that he emerges with a victory because, “My style is definitely aggressive. I like to walk down my opponent. Galarza has good movement and good reach. I’m 100 percent dedicated to the sport but this fight will be the first fight where I don’t have to work on the side during the preparation.”
Not only does Galarza use boxing in his work as a personal trainer and professional athlete, he sees it as a way to help others out of the dangerous situations Galarza found himself in as a young person. The sport has given rise to a program Galarza founded called “Youth Fighting Forward,” at the Starrett City Boxing Gym in Brooklyn, designed to harness the aggression of young people looking for a positive outlet to channel pent-up frustrations. The program’s mission statement is: “Engaging young people affected by violence and crime by using Boxing and MMA, combined with education, to develop life skills.” Galarza is living proof that this system can and will work…at any age.